An oil warmer is a receptacle that holds a candle or an electric heating element that sits under a bowl or basin of water. Drops of essential oils added to the water disperse in the room as the water evaporates due to the heat. Oil warmers are used to fill a house with pleasant fragrances or diffuse essential oils with medicinal qualities in a sick room.
Properties of Essential Oils
Essential oils are extremely concentrated distillations from live plants. They aren't really "oils" at all. Each distilled liquid has a fragrance typical of its source plant -- pine is Christmas-sy and invigorating; rose is sweet and relaxing -- and each has healing qualities that may be used as traditional medicine alternatives or to bolster general good health.
- Lavender lowers stress hormones;
- Peppermint increases mental alertness and clears or purifies the mind;
- Grapefruit oil is an antiseptic that cleanses the air in your home and banishes fatigue; and
- Eucalyptus clears sinuses, loosens congestion and stimulates the immune system.
In a warmer, the oils are released to work their magic in the environment.
An oil warmer is simple to use but does come with safety precautions. All warmers should be set on a level , flame-resistant surface and should be cleaned before each use. Keep oil warmers out of drafts -- don't put a fan behind one to disperse the scent faster. Add water to the mark in a water-based warmer and then drop 8 to 10 drops of oil into the water. Add about 20 drops of essential oil to a water-free warmer. For tea light warmers, light the candle and place it beneath the bowl. Plug in electric warmers, and monitor the warmer to be sure water or oil is always in the bowl or basin. Turn off the heat source when the fragrance in the room is sufficient and allow the unit to cool completely before moving it or adding anymore water or oil.
Oil warmers can get very hot. Keep them out of reach of children and pets, and don't leave a candle unattended.
Oil Warmer vs. Diffuser
Oil warmers are low-tech and oil diffusers -- or nebulizers -- operate a bit differently. A diffuser breaks down the oil and water mix in the basin and forcibly sends it out into the air. The oil warmer heats the contents of its bowl until the liquid evaporates. Some people believe diffusers make it easier to inhale healing molecules of essential oils as tiny droplets. But the oils are all dispersed into the air, so you inhale them one way or another. For strictly therapeutic use, you may want the quick dispersal of a nebulizer. But a warmer will still send the plant essences into the environment.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .